Ziad is a Palestinian living in the Territories. Nahum is a Jew, or a settler — to use a word that’s loaded these days — living a few kilometers from Ziad. They’ve been friends for several years. I’ve been spending time with them, videoing various activities of theirs, for a project called “A Third Way – Settlers and Palestinians as Neighbors.”
Nahum and Ziad met through the work of Rabbi Menachem Froman, the notorious “settler for peace” (who himself was a friend of Yasser Arafat), and we could say they’re both Froman’s proteges. Basically, they believe that, whatever the eventual future of Israel/Palestine, the smartest idea is to become friends now. (Rabbi Froman told me, “Whatever agreements are made with an attitude of peace and mutual respect will last. Agreements made with mistrust and lack of respect won’t last anyway.”)
To me, what’s interesting is that, on a human-to-human level, Ziad and Nahum meet as equals. Nahum has visited Ziad’s home many times. They’ve walked in the beautiful green wadi (with perennial springs) near Ziad’s town. They’ve broken mutual fasts together (for Ramadan and for Tisha B’Av).
But at the same time, on a political/social level, they are not equals by any means: Nahum chooses to live in the West Bank, and he could choose anytime to move to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Ziad has no choice. His family and ancestors have lived in their town for more than four generations. And for now, Ziad can’t visit Nahum’s home in his settlement.
I’m happy that this project seems to be raising objections from my friends on all sides of the political spectrum. An old lefty friend responded to one of my posts with, “Harvey, you are making propaganda for the occupation.” I guess he believes that a future “two-state solution” will magically transport hundreds of thousands of West Bank settlers back west of the Green Line.
My right-wing friends immediately respond with almost the same image: “The Palestinians want the West Bank to be judenrein – they’ll never accept any Jews living in a future Palestine.”
Nahum himself takes it step by step. He asks, if there’s an Arab minority in Israel, why can’t there also be a Jewish minority in Palestine? A few months ago, he organized a demonstration, confronting Israeli soldiers, when several Palestinian homes were demolished in Ziad’s town. But he says he’s against demolishing settler homes also.
To me, this is the best thing about this relationship: It’s unequal now, but (assuming things in this crazy part of the world last long enough), one day Ziad and Nahum may be able to meet as complete equals (politicians: fill in all the details of what that might mean) – now that’s a frightening concept!
In future posts, I’ll put up more clips of Ziad and Nahum, and also of Rabbi Froman. You can see various clips here.